Rusted Old Bobwire
I’ve hated you, you doggone cuss—you cut apart my range;
You’re an ugly scar upon a land that didn’t need no change.
I hate to say this kind of thing—it tends to tell my age
But I was here upon this land when it was only sage.
Heck, I can tell you tales about a time not long ago
When yonder valley, in the spring, was filled with buffalo;
The West was really wild then—the Indian still roamed;
He camped here in this very spot, in the mountains he called home.
’Course then in came the white man, and the rest has all been told;
They killed off all those red men, for their land and for their gold;
But even then, you cussed soul, the west just wouldn’t die;
She had wild oats still left to sow, and she was ridin’ high.
From Texas came the longhorn, a stout, and sturdy breed,
Without borders nowhere on the land that they must stop and heed;
I was just a young man then, with a body taut and lean;
I came up with a herd of steers, bound for Abilene.
Eight hundred dusty miles, they say, without a fence to cross;
And the only thing we’d answer to was one cagey trail boss;
Miles and miles of virgin land stretched on out before;
Tracts of untrod sagebrush and grassy hills galore.
I was young, and I was tough, and my partners then were, too;
We had steel pipes for innards, and veins that ran cold blue;
Times were hard, and so were we, and we didn’t want to see
The hordes of hungry settlers from east to Californie.
But even if we closed our eyes and swore ’twas just the wind,
Like the buffalo gone before ’em, them folks kept pouring in;
And pretty soon they wanted all the land divided, like back east,
So’s all of us cowpunchers soon come to know the Beast.
And you’re the Beast, you old Bobwire, you dirty rotten filth—
You snuck across this cattle range with true, uncanny stealth;
Again I’ll say I’ve cussed you, till I had no more breath;
I’ve seen you rip a cowboy up and hang a calf to death.
I got a scar across my back I got because of you,
And I’ve fought some men who brought you in, for the damage that you do.
I’ve seen you rake a leg to bone on the best darn horse I had,
And you’d a damn shore done the same to me, but my legs was leather clad.
Now them big old longhorn steers just stand and bawl, forlorn;
Like me, they know they ain’t the free critters they was born;
Heck, a man can’t ride here anymore, no more ’n a country mile,
Without he sees you, old Bobwire, stretched in dandy style.
I’ll say I’ve rode across the plains a midnight ride or two
When me and the boys from the old Bar None done took the shears to you;
I ain’t afraid to say it, ’cause you made my life a hell,
By invading every valley, every mountain, every dell.
There’s those who sworn to have my blood for cutting up their fence,
But if they’d a known the hate in me, they’d a called on better sense;
They’d a let me ride across the range and make it free again;
They’d a let me and the old Bar None go where we had the yen.
For if the truth be known right now, Bobwire, I’d a shucked a gun or two,
To kill the man who strung you out ’cross the ranges that I knew;
But it never came to guns for me—just my fists that drove men down;
A time or two I knocked some dirt poor farmer to the ground.
I’ve hated you, you bloody string, I’ve took yer name in vain;
And if I had my youth back, I’d do it all again;
I’ve cussed at you and called you names I wouldn’t call the devil . . .
But I’ll be square with you, Bobwire, and tell it on the level.
I ain’t the boy I used to be, an’ I can’t rope a cow,
Can’t get up on them ornery broncs—my bones ain’t fit somehow;
Bobwire, I’m all busted up—my knee’s got rheumatiz;
I can’t head off one stampeding calf, and here my problem is:
The boss says he can’t use me now to ride a wild cayuse,
But it just ain’t in his honest heart to go and cut me loose;
He has one more last job for me, one to see me through,
So I can stay on this old spread, on the ranges that I knew.
Well, I guess you got me figgered, why there’s pliers in my hand,
And why I sit a buckboard when you see me cross this land;
Like you, old boy, I’m rusted up, and there’s parts of me that’s broke;
And to all them younger punchers I ain’t nothing but a joke.
But though my pride’s been bruised a bit, there’s still a dream inside;
And I hate like heck admitting it, but my thankfulness I can’t hide;
You’ve give me the only way I had to stay out on this range,
To try to keep them towns at bay and fight them winds of change.
I spent my young years tearing you down and destroying yer posts with fire;
I’ll use the rest out where I love, mending broken wire;
I’ve cussed you and I’ve hated you, but I guess I’d be a liar
To say I wasn’t thankful now for you, rusted old Bobwire.
Kirby Jonas, Fall, 1994
Narrated Version by Chuck Bartok.